Candidates Answer Questions from Ukrainian Canadians

The Ukrainian Canadian community is making efforts to use the 2015 federal election campaign to promote Ukraine’s causes among the parties and candidates. The New Pathway has informed earlier that Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine issued “Ten Questions to your Candidate: Federal Election 2015”. The questions included whether the candidates favored providing Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons, putting Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and their families on Canada’s sanction list; repatriating to Ukraine the assets of Ukrainian oligarchs, which have been accused of large-scale corruption; and facilitating Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) has distributed a survey to Canada’s political parties contesting the 2015 election, the Conservative Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, and the Green Party of Canada. The survey covered a number of issues of importance to the Ukrainian Canadian community. The parties and particular candidates have responded to the survey.

Last week, KONTAKT TV interviewed a number of candidates in different Toronto ridings along the lines of the UCU Survey and the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine’s Ten Questions. Here, we are providing a review of the questions and responses.

Q: “Do you support Ukraine continuing to be one of Canada’s top foreign policy priorities?”

A: All four parties said Yes.

The Conservative Party added “Our Conservative Government has been steadfast in supporting Ukraine and it is one of our top foreign policy priorities.”

Q: “Do you support Ukraine’s integration into the EU, NATO and international structures that would help safeguard its territorial integrity and the continued development of Ukraine’s democracy?”

A: The NDP: “We will support good democratic governance in Ukraine. We are not currently calling for the inclusion of the Ukraine in EU or NATO.”

The Liberal Party: “Ukrainians and Ukrainian Canadians can be assured of the Liberal Party of Canada’s continued support for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration and in particular, Ukraine’s admission into NATO, though these are decisions that must be made by the Ukrainian people.”

The Green Party: Yes.

In June 2015, Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of National Defense and Minister for Multiculturalism said in his interview with Christopher Guly (for The Ukrainian Weekly) “If a country like Ukraine decides to join NATO, we should have an open-door policy and we would heartily embrace that alliance.”

Q: “Will your party commit to providing Ukraine with defensive weapons to protect itself in the face of Russia’s continued aggression?”

A: The NDP: “We support providing non-lethal equipment and training but not weapons.”

The Green Party: No.

The Liberal Party in its response to the survey said that it “supports the Canadian Armed Forces’ participation in a non-combat training mission in Ukraine. We believe providing training to Ukraine’s military is the most effective way for Canada to support Ukraine and is consistent with our interests and capabilities.”

Liberal candidate Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre) in his interview for KONTAKT TV said that he “absolutely” supports this and called on the Canadian Parliament to follow the US Senate and Congress in adopting legislation for provision of Ukraine with lethal weapons. He also said that the Conservative candidate Ted Opitz (Etobicoke Centre) has not introduced such motions in the House of Commons. Mr. Wrzesnewskyj said that himself and two of his colleagues, liberal candidates Arif Virani (Parkdale-High Park) and James Maloney (Etobicoke Lakeshore), have committed to such action, if elected. Mr. Wrzesnewskyj criticized the Conservative government for having only provided Ukraine with non-lethal equipment like tents and night-vision goggles which, he believes, is not what Ukraine needs when faced with Russian heavy weaponry. Borys Wrzesnewskyj believes that Canada should have provided Ukraine with 192 LAV-II armoured vehicles which, he said, were scrapped upon the return from Afghanistan. He does not believe that these vehicles and other equipment were past their due date, as opposed to the indications coming from the Ministry of Defence that this was the case, which have been aired earlier.

In his interview for KONTAKT TV, Ted Opitz, Mr. Wrzesnewskyj’s main contender in Etobicoke Centre, pointed at the recent announcement by the Minister of Defence Jason Kenney that, if elected, the Conservative government will negotiate a Defence Cooperation Agreement with Ukraine which will put Ukraine “on Canada’s Automatic Firearms Distribution List that will enable Ukraine to purchase the weapons that it’s going to need”. Among the non-lethal aid for Ukraine from Canada, Mr. Opitz pointed at the satellite imagery which was “better than anybody has provided including the Americans” which “has helped Ukrainian military in counter-battery fight” and in “other strategic things”.

Q: “Does your party support the listing of the Luhansk “People’s Republic” and the Donetsk “People’s Republic” as terrorist organizations? Does your party support listing the Russian Federation as a State sponsor of terrorism?”

A: The Green Party: No.

The NDP: “We support listing the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic. We do not currently support listing the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

The Liberal Party: “A Liberal government would immediately expand the list of sanctioned Russians to include influential businessmen, and close Putin supporters, Igor Sechin and Vladimir Yakunin. We would also call for an urgent meeting of our NATO allies to decide whether further new steps must be taken, in view of escalating Russian aggression in Ukraine.” Liberal candidates Arif Virani and Borys Wrzesnewskyj confirmed to KONTAKT TV that they are in favour of the Luhansk “People’s Republic” and the Donetsk “People’s Republic” as terrorist organizations.

In his interview for KONTAKT TV, conservative candidate Ted Opitz said that the Conservative government has sanctioned more than 270 individuals and entities in Russia and eastern Ukraine and that it “tends to sanction individuals and entities because in that region of eastern Ukraine logistically UN operations are going on, and if it’s not individuals, it would impair UN operations and it’s the people of that region that will suffer”

Q: “Does your party support the imposition of sectoral sanctions against Russia’s energy, defence and financial services sector (including removing Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system)?”

A: The Conservative Party: “A re-elected Conservative Government will establish a Financial Task Force comprised of foreign policy experts and financial analysts to better track Russian capital flows in global markets. The focus would be Russian state-owned enterprises, as well as individuals and entities targeted by our sanctions”. In his interview for KONTAKT TV, Ted Opitz referred to the statement by SWIFT that it operates under Belgian law and that Canada or any other individual country would be able to make sure that SWIFT disengages any particular financial organization.

The NDP: “We support targeted sanctions against Putin’s supporters and their companies; not broad sectoral sanctions that will harm all Russians.”

The Liberal Party said that it would “work with our allies to explore the feasibility of cutting off certain Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication network.”